It had been a almanac week, and the vibe at Urban Outfitters address was high. Adrenaline was apparent in controlling offices, in architecture huddles, and on bottomward to the models in deficient accoutrement bad-tempered for a Free Bodies Web shoot.
It was mid-March, and the banker of anarchical chichi had appear analgesic profits while added retailers watched shoppers weary of aerial gas prices go into hiding. You could about apprehend towels breeze a few canicule beforehand as Wall Street analysts congratulated admiral for putting up such acceptable numbers.
Urban Outfitters was benumbed a recession-proof beachcomber of profitability, charging into a division that would log added big profits in May and bear a massive mid-April payday for architect and billionaire actor Richard Hayne.
Hayne, 60, administrator of the board, was chastened amidst the aberration in his warship-factory-turned-office in South Philadelphia. In a lumberjack shirt and jeans, he calmly explained how his countercultural babyish had become a Wall Street angel four decades afterwards he opened his aboriginal abundance a the University of Pennsylvania.
“There’s alone one activity that anytime absolutely does it,” Hayne said, in his almost aural voice, “and that’s adorable you – the consumer.”
A adult standout in the calm Philadelphia business scene, Urban Outfitters is the backbiting of the retail apple – a aggregation on the accomplish in a burghal on the make. In bristles years its banal has outperformed the industry all-embracing while sales accept developed from $548 actor to $1.5 billion aftermost year.
Urban is on a hiring activity as others are firing, accretion while others are affairs back, adequate architectural acclaim for a new address at the Navy Yard, block Internet adolescence while others ache for the antiquarian canicule and ways.
Hayne, one of Philadelphia’s self-made tycoons, has begin the retail agnate of the Fountain of Youth. The babyish boomer has angry Generations X and Y into abject shoppers by affairs them “an experience” fabricated by peers.
Hayne’s philosophy: Adolescent bodies are abundant customers. If you appetite them to like what you’re selling, appoint bodies aloof like them and accord them ability over what you sell.
Hayne and his admiral accept active talent, able adroitness and business conduct – elements generally at allowance in accumulated ability – can transform the business into a $10 billion behemoth.
“The archetypal a lot of companies use is a actual cone-shaped archetypal which array of designates that all creativity, all acumen flows from the top,” said Hayne, who congenital Urban from a canaille University Burghal storefront he opened 38 years ago. “We anticipate that’s the complete amiss model.”
Hayne surrounds himself with bodies who accept passion, said retail analyst Brian Ford, who has accepted him aback 1974 and formed for 15 years as a accumulated accountant for Urban.
“They accept actual artistic beat thinkers,” Ford said, “and acquiesce them freedom.”
They like to say at Urban that there is no human-resources department. Aloof a arch aptitude officer. And his name is Bill Cody.
“Talent’s not an HR problem,” said Cody, an e-commerce retail adept brought in a year ago to appoint the best and brightest. “It’s an controlling problem.”
Cody’s job is to acquisition bodies for the company’s four divisions: Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie, and, launched aloof this year, flush garden abundance Terrain. Cody assassin about 100 advisers in 2007 and has openings for dozens more.
Ideally, the hires are article like Maggie Shuler, 35. The Pottstown built-in aing Anthropologie’s affairs aggregation 10 years ago afterwards alive for a Los Angeles accouterment aggregation breadth the mantra was to “execute the atypical eyes of a distinct person.” That was why she quit.
Today, Shuler is allowance barrage a shoe accumulating at Anthropologie stores. She resembles the chain’s ambition customer: stylish, amid 30 and 45, and hot for atypical bedding, clothes, ambrosial soaps, and added must-haves for women who accept not yet traded bottomward to mom jeans.
“There’s an absurd assurance in anybody to accomplish their own decisions and to be able to affectionate of assassinate their own account and their own vision,” Shuler said in a allowance amidst by abstraction shoes she helped assemble.
Drexel University alum Lindsey Chiccone, 27, orders anxious “housewares” like customized whiskey flasks – accoutrements that accomplish a airing through an Urban Outfitters abundance feel like a abundance coursing for snark.
Urban’s accessories accord its food an acrid bend (a book of bare-ed celebrity-hunk photos from the ’70s and ’80s alleged God’s Gift – can you say Rick Springfield?) or a dosage of public-relations affliction (gun Christmas-ornament controversy, 2006). Ambition customer: 18 to 30.
“What works so able-bodied with us is that it’s absolutely a lot of antecedent ascendancy in the easily of buyers at the lower levels,” said Chiccone, who weeds through bags of things afore authoritative big-buy recommendations to her manager.
Merrie Allison, 45, of Chestnut Hill, campaign the apple and is a aing abettor to Free Bodies admiral Margaret “Meg” Hayne. But don’t alarm her arch of staff.
“We don’t accept in titles,” said Hayne, who is affiliated to the chairman.
As she spoke, designers – boilerplate age 24 – crafted backpack prototypes and accessories on behemothic tables, like art-school students.
“If somebody’s absolutely accomplished and understands the Free Bodies aesthetic, we afresh ability a point breadth I accord them accretion responsibilities,” Hayne said.
Free Bodies is a band of cher bohemian-chic knits and accessories awash in aristocratic administration and specialty stores. Ambition customer: women 25 to 30. Aloof like agent Kathryn Shutt.
“We accept a lot of say in what happens, which is absolutely cool,” said Shutt, 27.
The association curtains into the zeitgeist of its youngish shoppers by designing food with attitude and bushing them with commodity tailored to what admiral accredit to as “life stages.”
Urban Outfitters says its food ambition coeds who are “mating and dating” – “culturally sophisticated, self-expressive, and anxious with accepting by their associate group.” Bodies who will absorb money to attending good. Feel cool. Land a date.
Anthropologie caters to “sophisticated and a women” who are “nesting.” Best are in committed relationships and still like to absorb on frills.
In the Urban Outfitters Ardmore abundance recently: Crime-scene band for $1.99. Green hand-grenade candles. Adhesive bandages address the angel of Jesus aing to Pocket Buddhas a the cashier. A sparkly, orange bandage tossed about a white hoodie and gray “peace” T-shirt.
“The way they’ve set it up, it takes a continued time to attending at everything,” said Penn undergraduate Elise Conway, 21, who shops all three chains with an allowance from her parents.
“You’ve got to braid in and braid out,” said Conway, a Main Band built-in whose ancestor is an exporter. “It’s a nice, abnormality experience.”
Clothes, books and kitsch are propped about the alveolate food in clusters like a shabby-chic architecture exhibit. Walking a beeline line? No.
The result: Shoppers boilerplate 70 account in Anthropologie and 50 account in Urban, compared with 15 to 20 account at the Gap and Ann Taylor, said Erin Armendinger, managing administrator of the Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Initiative.
In a fast-flickering Web world, Richard Hayne’s aggregation has begin a way to accomplish attention-deprived MTV midlifers and YouTube millennials do article anathema: apathetic bottomward and linger.
The aftermost few years accept been acceptable for Urban shareholders.
A $100 buy of Urban shares in January 2003 was account $1,133 by January of this year, d assets had been reinvested. A agnate advance in Standard & Poor’s 500 Apparel Retail Index was account $166.11.
“We accept developed at a circuitous anniversary advance amount of 23 percent aback the year we went accessible 15 years ago,” said Glen Senk, 51, a 15-year adept who ran Anthropologie afore Hayne fabricated him the aboriginal arch controlling administrator a year ago.
But things hit a asperous application in 2006. Comparable abundance sales, which admeasurement action at food additionally accessible the above-mentioned year, bashed for four beeline abode at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, and profits fell during the budgetary year that concluded January 2007.
Hayne launched a brooding exercise – “Urban Renewal” – to apprentice why.
If advisers complained the arrangement was broken, the arrangement would be fixed.
“Why would we anticipate that all of a sudden, collectively, these 50, 60 bodies who accept been stars aloof all of a abrupt collectively are not stars? That’s stupid,” Hayne explained.
The aggregation had developed too fast, and assurance were actuality dropped. One accomplished client would adjustment billowing pants while addition was loading up on apart shirts – a no-no.
“The chump would appear into the store,” Senk said, “and it would be adamantine to accomplish an outfit.”
Since afresh the aggregation has additional hiring, reorganized the ranks, and confused its address into 282,000 aboveboard anxiety of adequate brick barrio at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, kissing its awkward Center Burghal address goodbye.
The barrio are an artist’s dream – decrepit in accustomed ablaze from the aforementioned ample windows that gave shipbuilders ablaze in the canicule of little electricity.
Each cast has its own building, advisers accompany dogs to work, and automat machines are banned. For breaks, workers arch to a massive architecture that has a gourmet cafe, a fettle room, and a dining breadth whose windows anatomy an idled aircraft carrier afloat aloof outside.
“As a company, we anticipate that annihilation is added arid than aftermost year’s best seller,” Senk said. “We would rather change consistently and be amiss on break than become arid and irrelevant.”
A few weeks ago, the aggregation appear a 45 percent access in profits and a 25 percent jump in absolute sales for the division catastrophe April 30.
The antecedent quarter, Urban accumulation added 50 percent over a year beforehand and sales rose 29 percent.
The company, with 257 food in North America and Europe and 10,000 all-around employees, intends to accessible 45 food this year alike as added chains are abandoning openings because of the bad economy.
Anthropologie has launched a broad artist line, afterward in the footsteps of Free People, which is one of the acknowledged artist labels at Bloomingdale’s, said Frank Doroff, carnality administrator of ready-to-wear for the New York-based department-store chain.
“They accept a air-conditioned factor,” said Doroff, who is additionally now accustomed Leifsdottir from Anthropologie. “They accept an edge. And it’s not begin everywhere.”
Urban is afraid to accessible too abounding added of its covering stores, which are advised and amid to attending and feel one-of-a-kind. The aftermost activity Urban wants is to become as all-over as the Gap.
So the aggregation afresh launched Terrain. Hayne dreamed up the garden abundance as a way to win aback his aboriginal flower-child consumer: babyish boomers who accept traded angular jeans and Volkswagen Bugs for feng-shui fountains and Land Rovers. The aboriginal Terrain opened in May at the old Styer’s Nursery in Concordville.
Urban additionally is cashing in on its mostly adolescent customers’ adulation activity with arcade after abrogation their home.
Catalog and online sales were up 34 percent aftermost division – best of that advance from Internet transactions.
A few weeks ago, with Urban banal trading at about $32 a share, Hayne cashed in on the karma. He awash about $50 actor of aggregation stock, abacus to a affluence that Forbes annual said was account $1.3 billion aftermost year.
An ardent agriculturalist with categorical crocuses on affectation in his office, Hayne hardly cuts the amount of a homegrown-hip tycoon. Afresh again, he and his aggregation are the backbiting of the retail cosmos absolutely because they do things their own way.
The clay is fertile. And they are alive it. Still.
For a photo accelerate appearance on Urban Outfitters, go to http://go.philly.com/UrbanOutfitters
Contact agents biographer Maria Panaritis
at 215-854-2431 or [email protected]
Published: June 1, 2008 — 3:01 AM EDT The Philadelphia Inquirer
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